I blame the condo in Singer Island.
Yes, I was planning to enjoy the corruption of the Republican Party of Florida that ended in a money-laundering plea deal in an Orlando courtroom on Monday.
But I can’t. That’s because the guy making a run for the sleaziest member of Congress these days is a Democrat.
And that’s no small feat, being the sleaziest member of Congress.
It takes quite a while just to call the roll of nominees.
But Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, seems to be making a bid for the top spot.
And yes, I blame you, board members of the Aquarius condo on Singer Island.
I’ll explain, but first a little background.
Menendez, who chairs the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is the subject of government and media scrutiny that centers on his ties to a North Palm Beach eye doctor, Salomon Melgen.
It’s got all the elements of a thoroughly unwholesome relationship, the kind of tale that serves as Exhibit A in everything that’s wrong in a political system that subverts public interest to private dealings.
Melgen, who faces an $11.1 million lien from the IRS, has invested handsomely in the election campaigns of Menendez, who in turn has gone to bat for Melgen, standing up for him over billing policies with Medicare, and getting in the way of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security plan to donate port security equipment to the Dominican Republic so that the equipment could be bought from a private company owned by Melgen.
Probably none of this would have come to light though, if it hadn’t been for a confidential informant who tipped the FBI to an allegedly tawdrier side of the relationship between the Florida doctor and the New Jersey senator.
Three years ago, the doctor took the senator on a couple of then-undisclosed trips to the Dominican Republican on the doctor’s private plane, and while there Menendez cavorted with underage prostitutes, according to the informant.
These allegations became public recently, causing the senator to reimburse the doctor $58,500 for the trips, saying his failure to report them was an oversight. As for the underage prostitutes, Menendez called those allegations “fallacious.”
Probably not the best word choice.
And so now the Democrats have a great big mess to clean up: a chairman of a foreign relations committee who is being investigated for his own foreign relations.
This sort of hands-on legislating never ends well. And it could have been avoided.
Here’s where the Aquarius condominium comes in.
You see, a year before the doctor flew the senator to the Dominican Republic for those two infamous trips, there was a foreign-relations opportunity right here on Singer Island.
That’s where Melgen had a leased condo. And in 2009 he allowed a 26-year-old Ukranian woman with super-model looks to live there. Svitlana Buchyk was no ordinary resident of Aquarius.
“She was a young, attractive lady,” said the building manager, Carlos Simoes. “Most of the units in the building are occupied by older adults.”
The Aquarius has a two-week guest rule. After it was clear that Svitlana was living there beyond the two weeks, the condo sought to have her either approved or evicted.
“She was a guest and her time limit was over,” the building manager said. “If she was going to stay, we needed the proper documentation. She was asked to fill them out, and she didn’t want to be bothered.”
Svitlana was forced to move out.
So this whole episode may have all hinged on some garden-variety South Florida condo-rule vigilance.
Who knows what might have happened the following year if the senator had availed himself of some wholesome foreign relations opportunities right here in Singer Island instead of jetting off to the Dominican Republic for something that turned out to be scandalizing?
The senator could have had some completely above-board chats with Svitlana about the Ukraine’s struggle for independence from Russia, its integration into the European Union and the long-term solutions for the Baltic energy crisis.
This might have checked that foreign-relations box for the senator, eliminating his need for those Dominican trips.
If that had happened, I would have been fully focused this week on how campaign money has thoroughly corrupted the machinations of the state Republicans instead of the national Democrats.